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North America seminar

The 2018 North American IMW study programme seminar took place this year from 26 to 30 January in San Francisco. 2018 had capacious attendance with thirty-two MWs and 97 students participating. Forty-seven were stage 1; thirty-one were stage 2, and nineteen were practical only students.

Students participated in mock practical exams in the mornings and theory sessions and plenary tastings in the afternoons. This year students in each stage of the programme were provided real-time focused paper 1 feedback on a wine of their choice and full individual feedback of the mock exam. Stellar plenary tasting sessions kicked off with ‘Strategy for accurate identifications’ with Doug Frost MW and Mary Margaret McCamic MW and included a Bordeaux vertical tasting sponsored by the Bordeaux Wine Council and led by Mary Gorman-McAdams MW with Tim Marson MW and Eric Hemer MW.

‘Continuity and (r)evolution in Italy’s Wines’ sponsored by the Istituto del Vino Italiano di Qualità – Grandi Marchi (IGM) continued the plenary tastings with Bob Betz MW, Joel Butler MW and Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW and the sessions concluded with a bountiful Riesling tasting sponsored by Grosset, Hugel & Fils and Verband Deutscher Prädikats (VDP) and moderated by Doug Frost MW.

Well received plenary theory sessions included “Exploring opposing aspects of viticulture and winemaking” with new MWs Nova Cadamatre MW, Nigel Sneyd MW and Morgan Twain-Peterson MW; “Managing stress, finding balance, and guiding your inner voice” with Jennifer Years from Zen Jen’s Mojo Dojo and Nova Cadamatre MW; and “Structuring business of wine essays” led by Geoff Labitzke MW, with D C Flynt MW, Debra Meiburg MW and Nicholas Paris MW.

Evenings were also packed with tasting opportunities including the annual Robert Mondavi Winery welcome dinner, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) interactive tasting and reception and the Jackson Family Wines walk-around tasting. The seminar concluded Tuesday evening and the annual IMWNA Bordeaux tasting, allowing many students to attend and taste alongside with MWs the 56 wines from the 2013 Bordeaux vintage. There were pre and post seminar education opportunities as well for students.

Prior to the seminar, twenty students were accompanied by Nicholas Paris MW and Nigel Sneyd MW on a day and a half programme to E & J Gallo Winery in Modesto where they toured vineyards and winemaking facilities and met with senior Gallo personnel in the areas of viticulture, winemaking and QC. Post seminar, thirty-nine students spent two days with Bob Betz MW and D C Flynt MW in a joint IMW/NVV Napa Valley Immersion Program with a number of impactful seminars, tastings and hands-on experiences. Another comprehensive, educative and enjoyable week for both students and MWs!

Nancy Johnson
IMW North America Administrator

Cabernet from the Americas tasting – London

As Masters of Wine (and students, current or eternal), we are privileged to attend many outstanding tastings. But I honestly think this is one of the best – not least because those nice MWs in North America have done all the hard work for us! An astonishing line-up of top North American Cabernet-based wines, mainly from California and Washington State, this year showcasing the 2014 vintage – which, on this showing, may be even better suited to European palates than the wonderful, powerful 2013 vintage. With the California Wine Institute now becoming more active in the UK again, this is not the only chance to try such wines – but it is certainly the most focussed and most manageable.

This year, the tasting was enhanced by an extremely well chosen selection of Cabernet-based wines from Argentina and Chile. These proved a fascinating contrast, not least because the oak regime (or, in some cases, apparent lack of it) produced very different expressions of the grape.

Just one further reflection. As prices of top European wines escalate, with many likely to be pushed even higher by the short 2017 vintage, the prices of the majority of these North American wines look lighter on European wallets than they did a few years ago. Hopefully in 12 months time far more of these wines will be linked to stockists in the UK and Europe.

Richard Bampfield MW

Neustadt seminar

This year’s theory only course was held in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse and was hosted by the VDP, The German Wine Institute and the City of Neustadt. The course was attended by nine students from Australia, France, USA, UK, Sweden, Finland and Hong Kong.

Konstantin Baum MW, Steve Charters MW, Alison Flemming MW, Caro Maurer MW and Neil Tully MW all gave presentations to the students. Invited speakers from Germany gave insights into the history of German wine, the impacts of climate change and the state of the German wine industry. Con Simos from the AWRI ran a winemaker Q&A session. Field trips to Weingut Dr Wehrheim and Reh Kendermann impressed upon students the diversity of scale of the industry. Students sat two mock exams…a surprisingly well received item in the schedule.

Each evening we were hosted to events arranged by the host organisations. Likely the students were better informed than me about the quality and styles of Pfalz wines but these evening tastings transformed my opinions about the region’s wines. This is the first time the the theory only has been held in Neustadt, and is best summed up by an email received from one of the students, ‘Thank you for running the course this week. It was the best MW seminar I have attended, and I have attended a lot of them so that should mean something’.

Phil Reedman MW

Rust seminar

48 students and 17 MWs from all over the world, three high calibre guest speakers, myriads of wines to taste during and after the daily lectures – just some figures to give a first numeric impression of the stage 1 study programme seminar in Rust, at the Neusiedlersee this January.

The Weinakademie Österreich (Wine Academy of Austria) offers the perfect premises for the seminar. As it has extended its tasting rooms recently, it was possible to divide the students into four groups of 12 to give them more detailed and more personal feedback during tastings and theory exercises. For the additional sessions in the afternoon the main room provided a perfect setting for the speakers such as Professor Manfred Grossmann from Geisenheim (topics: yeasts and SO2) and Con Simos from AWRI (Australian Wine Research Institute) who presented a sensational tasting of 20 wine faults. A true celebrity speaker was Jancis Robinson MW who discussed very personally and openly her role as a wine critic – it is always delightful and impressive to listen to her and the students have been deeply touched by her generosity to share such an inside look into her life and career.

Thanks to the organisation of Pepi Schuller MW, director of Weinakademie, the evenings were filled with winery visits, table tastings, traditional dinners at Heurigen (local wine bars) and a more formal occasion at Schloss Esterhazy. Over the last few years, one night off has become a tradition – for both students and the MWs attending. While the students are partying in the hotel, Pepi invited the MWs to an excellent regional Croatian restaurant. This year he even gave a short concert together with his Croatian traditional music group. Austrian wineries sent magnums for us to drink, rather than taste – a wonderful possibility to have a short break from the duties and share some moments together.

One more highlight of the Rust seminar is always the pruning day when the members of the Pannobile wineries in Burgenland are so brave to hand their pruning scissors to students after an introduction into gentle pruning, and let them make some practical experience in the vineyards. So far no serious damage of vines has been reported! Afterwards the whole group was invited to Palais Coburg, one of the most luxurious hotels of Vienna. Four wineries (Wieninger, Lackner-Tinnacher, Gobelsburg and Emmerich Knoll) shared the “Best Austrian Whites” with us, followed by more wines at a table tasting and visits to the legendary wine cellar of Palais Coburg.

What makes the special charm of the Rust seminar is to follow the emergence of a joyful community between students and MWs. Staying in the same comfortable hotel at the lake side, sharing meals together and having a glass of wine at the bar gives students the chance to ask questions and get personal advice which might not be discussed in the classes. This also gives them an idea of what a wonderful, valuable and generous group of people they will join when they will pass. More than one of them said goodbye while at the same time expressing the wish to return to Rust in the future – as an MW to share their own experience with the next generation.

Caro Maurer MW